Brain drain in the heat. Couch Potato, spending hours on the latest Video Game or the TV screen. Dreaded by parents. Boring summer holidays. Call it what you may but it adds up to the same thing: Young brains slowing down during the long, lazy days of summer, more so as the lessening of school routines cause kids to backslide, forgetting valuable reading and learning skills. On the other hand school summer projects handed out by teachers presumably to keep the young mind engaged productively, often turn into ‘chores’ for the parents to push their children to complete before school re-opens.
But reflect for a moment to the time a decade or two ago, when we were in school, we all had the most fun during summer holidays as we looked forward to those days away from school, of well-planned travels to distant vacation spots or by visiting the home-states/cities where our parents were from, to renew the family ties with grandparents, cousins, uncles & aunts. We planned picnics, visits to museums, played Ludo indoors at a friend’s place, but rushed out for some outdoorsy kind of games and fun as the sun went down in the evening, continuing to play long after the streetlights had switched on. We helped our mothers in making pickles, preserves, jams & sherbets from seasonal fruits. We created scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine cuttings about our favourite Animal/Bird/City/India or carefully exchanged stamps with other philately-minded children. Reading and exchanging of comics also ranked high on our list of ‘To Dos’.
Parents were lenient during summer holidays, and rightly so, unless you had the all-important Medical & Engineering ‘Entrance’ or ‘Board’ exam preparations to contend with! But majority of those years and school holidays was simple, whole-hearted, joyful fun! Some of us also had to do school projects and read up chapters of textbooks which would come upon us in the months of monsoon, July & August. But all this and more was done under the careful watch of our parents
When was the last time you had such fun with the children of your family?
So what has changed now?
Parents, we ask you, do you have time to give your children as once our parents gave to us during those two months of May & June? We still do a mandatory week/10-day vacation but that’s the best we accomplish in trying to connect with our children since our hectic office schedules demand us to be back in our ‘office cubicles’ within that week. What has changed fundamentally is that we have handed over that carefree time we had spent with our parents, in favour of things that may or may not be liked by our children, may or may not be useful for our children and which definitely are not wholesome, fun and family-oriented.
One can see scores of children being sent for theatre workshops, tennis and basketball coaching academies and dance or music classes. Summers are also when children have the leeway to pick up skills in abstruse activities like playing Golf, horse-riding and Polo, learning an esoteric new language, or karate classes and the list can go on and on. Definitely these classes expose the children to a variety of experiences which can lead to greater avenues of taking it up as a serious passion and hobby in the future by the child. Those conducting these classes also teach with lots of passion, creativity and make it an amazing, eye-opening experience for kids to enjoy, who in turn have real fun while they learn something new. Development of a skill, enhancement of a child’s personality and definitely using the long, lean summer days judiciously in learning something useful are the three most important reasons why we push children into these kinds of classes and activities. I mean those were the reasons when I was in school!
When was the last time you took your children to the city jungles or the city zoo for a day-long picnic?
But, my point is where are you in the whole process, where is your involvement as a parent? Are you just going to land up for the final ‘show/presentation’ of what your child has learnt in his summer vacation and pictures of which you can proudly show to family and friends, or share it on the third ‘F’ nowadays, Facebook? Does the learning translate simply into a ‘packaged result’ like a theatre production by the group of children in the acting school, an exhibition of paintings or crafts made out of waste, a musical evening, or maybe a 500-word story written in French-the new language you made your child learn or an exhibition match of cricket teams in the academy. Is your role as parents limited to the above ‘objective’ being met, like any corporate project deadline? Spending the money to enroll the child in such activities, was that the ‘responsibility’ you had towards the child? Was that the objective of this year’s summer vacation? Will your child dread the next vacations, as he/she doesn’t know what new thing you wish he/she could pick up the next year? Maybe next year your child can try playing Squash, or Archery, making pottery or the latest fad of using pre-cut kits to make ‘Angry Birds’ toys! But the question still does not change. Where are you in the whole scheme of things, this year or the year after or the next vacation?
Have we as parents not abdicated the responsibilities of a parent by ‘outsourcing’ the ‘Summer Family Time’? The catch phrase I use here is ‘Summer Family Time’, and we are not referring to going to the mall on weekends to watch the latest animation movie like ‘The Croods’, or eating ‘Family/Kids Meals’ at KFC or McDonalds.
Today experts on education, child psychology and family studies recommend making minor changes to the summer schedule you chalk out for your children that will bring back those charming moments that we still treasure from our days of school. Experts say a family outdoor field trip, museum visit, board games that can be played by the family as a team, visiting the local library or bookstore or a simple story-telling session with ‘Dadi/Nani’, the grandparents can make the summer vacations more than an objective-oriented ‘class/academy’ or a hurriedly put-together summer project.
Experts suggest parents to slip in easy concepts like math exercises during card games, correct vocabulary while playing words games like scrabble, or a visit to the Children’s Doll Museum to teach diversity of clothes & cultures within and outside of India. A drive on roads of Delhi can be used to teach concepts of geographical and topographical importance. Mothers may explain the importance of herbs, plants & nutritional values of foods as they cook in the kitchens. Small mental math like how much will be the cost of petrol, down to the last decimal if a full tank-up is done, or quiz the child on the news in the newspapers to check his comprehension of written text will go a long way in improving their cognitive skills.
Just go out!!!
We personally believe parents can simply go out of their houses, AC cars, malls and into the open spaces that any city has to offer. Delhi has many historical sites within easy reach to bring out kids and parents alike, who can together learn about the city’s glorious past, quiz each other on geographical and historical facts and figures and get rewarded by each other. Pack a bag of goodies to eat and go out for a picnic in the beautiful parks of Delhi. Teach your kids the importance of civic duties like disposing the garbage responsibly which we created during the picnic. Learn photography yourself, while teach children the same basic of concepts drawing straight lines/curves to draw masterpieces.
So this summer will you take out the time to do this and more, recalling the times when we ourselves were kids once?
WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY FAMILY SUMMER VACATION!!!